I rack my brain to figure out where I've been recently by backtracking thru my journey. After leaving Columbus, my next stop was Presque Isle State Park (free) in Eerie, PA. An image of sandy beaches, excellent trail running, and a small little lighthouse fill my memory.
Presque Isle State Park beach.
After that was Buffalo, NY, Niagara Falls and endless rain. I had planned on biking over to the Canadian side of the falls, but with the rain and mist, it would have been a miserable trip and with low visibility, one I decided to cancel. Niagara Falls itself tho, along with the state park that sits on the Island in between them, is quite the site. And because of the rain and time of year, I was at least able to find free parking on the side of the street and avoid the normal $10 fee.
The view of Buffalo from the south.
Niagara Falls upstream view.
Niagara Falls side view.
From there it was Rochester, which seemed to be all ghetto from downtown to the north side. Though it was interesting to see so many people walking around at night, I did not get a safe vibe from the area and traveled on towards Syracuse. In Syracuse, it was gameday morning and people were out tailgating for the Syracuse-Rutgers football game. Not quite the same as a Sooner gameday in Norman. Not even close. But in all fairness, Syracuse is a basketball town and the weather was cold and damp and miserable to run in, much less tailgate in. Here I ran into some Syracuse students to tag along with on a run, but left shortly after, so it can't be the area I'm in now.
I did miss a turn and end up at Chittenango Falls (Fee area during summer, free the rest of the year) to the east of Syracuse. A small, beautiful area to picnic and even had a few short hiking trails.
Stunning Chittenango Falls in Central New York.
So where did I go after that? Well it was on to New Hartford and then down to Cooperstown the next morning for the Ommegang Cyclocross race. Which, not only met my expectations for Cyclocross in the Northeast, but surpassed them! The field for the Cat 4 race was huge! And not only was there mud, it was pretty much all there was besides that one hill with long, thick, wet grass where if I'd been thinking, I would have dismounted and ran up instead of hammering out all my power with the tire spinning just to keep the bike moving. It felt like I was racing in slow motion. With switchbacks, sharp, off bank corners, thick mud, and wet, slick grass and rocks everywhere, I only had to speed up just a little to get one of my tires sliding and ensure me that with the lines I was taking through the course I could not, in fact, go any faster than the snails pace I was forced to travel at. However, I was, at least, still in front of a lot of people. That is, until the end of the third lap, going into the final one, where I pulled my shoe right out of my cleat (still stuck in the pedal) trying to dismount for the barrier. For awhile, I stood dumbfounded about what to do or how to fix it and by the time I remembered I could just run it the whole last lap, the leader passed me and the race was over.
Now while I hadn't had a glorious race in the least, I had achieved my two goals of not crashing (miraculously I managed to save it everytime I almost went down) and not getting lapped while I still had a fully functioning bike. And best of all, I had a blast playing with my bike in the mud! Post-race, however, had to be the best part. Everyone I met was as friendly as can be, especially the guys from Team Ommegang who were putting on the race. They hooked me up with all kinds of cool swag and free tickets for the excellent Ommegang brews being served. If you've never been to one of these events, I highly recommend it. It is perfect for spectating. The whole general atmosphere is completely different than the typical crit, road race, or triathlon. It is much more laid back, friendly, and a lot less serious, yet still contains an extremely competitive nature. A cyclocross event almost seem to be an anomaly to cycling in that brings out the best in people as it's atmosphere encourages them to leave their egos at the road and enjoy themselves.
Afterwards, I... wait, what did I do after? Let's see, I was hanging out, enjoying the post race festivities, finishing my beer, and... decided I'd had too many to drive anywhere and moved my stuff over to take a quick nap, and... Hold on a sec, am I at the... Yep, still at the brewery! Oops... that was quite the nap! Well, now that I'm here in this nice quite, safe area, and nobody has bugged me, it looks like I've found my free camping spot for the night!